After experimenting with biofuels for several years, the US Navy announced its use will now be standard practice, incorporated into all solicitations for jet engine and marine diesel fuels.
"The Navy has a long history of energy innovation. From sail to coal, coal to oil, and then to nuclear, the Navy’s led the way. We see biofuel as that next energy innovation, and we’re taking action," says Tom Hicks, acting undersecretary of the Navy."
Under "Farm-to-Fleet," biofuel blends – such as waste oils from cooking grease and algae – will be purchased in all Department of Defense (DOD) domestic solicitations.
"This effort marks the start of the ‘new normal,’ where drop-in biofuels will be fully integrated with our regular fuel operations, says Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
The initiative began in 2010, when President Obama challenged the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy to collaborate on speeding development of domestic, competitively-priced "drop-in" diesel and jet fuel substitutes.
You may remember that Republicans were up in arms when they heard the Navy used $15 per gallon biofuels for its Great Green Fleet demonstration. Just a few years later, DOD expects to buy the fuels at competitive prices – less than $4 per gallon by 2016. The program starts with a bulk fuels solicitation this year, with deliveries in mid-2015.
"We absolutely have to have – particularly in this constrained budget environment – a stably priced, domestically produced alternative to fossil fuels that do spike just on world crises," explains Mabus. "Every time the price of oil goes up $1 per barrel, it costs the Navy Department an extra $30 million."
They are starting with blends of 10% and growing to 50% with conventional fuels over the next few years. Starting small will help biofuel companies get to the volumes and price points they need.
Another promising technology converts seawater into liquid fuel, while removing carbon at the same time. The Navy recently invested $30 million in Hawaii’s Energy Accelerator to speed technologies to market.